One night after Seton Hall suffered one of the worst final minute collapses in recent history, the Pirates rebounded to defeat Virginia Tech 68-67, splitting their weekend set in Brooklyn.
The Pirates opened the contest clearly hungover following last night's collapse against Oklahoma. The Hokies came out firing from the perimeter and the Pirates allowed them to convert four 3PA in the first eight minutes of play. In the early minutes, the Pirates zone would look to trap the ball handler close to the perimeter, leaving a man open for catch-and-shoot attempts that they dared the Hokies to sink. In other instances, the players were slow to rotate and often found themselves chasing down open shooters in failed attempts to close out. One successful close out ended in a foul behind the arc, allowing three freebies for Virginia Tech. For the second time in two nights the perimeter defense was far from sound and it's evident there's plenty of work to do in that regard, during the bye week.
Offensively, Seton Hall didn't score it's first field goal until almost four minutes into the game, as they struggled out of the gate without their starting forward, Patrik Auda. Last night it was Brian Oliver that kept the Pirates close in the first half, tonight it was Jaren Sina who made four 3-pointers in a five minute span, to tie the game at 26. Showing he's more than a one dimensional player, at one point the Hokies finally stepped out to respect Sina and he blew by his defenders, drawing a foul, giving the Pirates their first lead after a trip to the line. The half ended as the referees missed a blatant goaltend on a Gene Teague attempt that should have given Seton Hall a four point lead at intermission.
The second half saw both teams struggle to make field goals as they traded minute long stretches without field goals. At one point, in a two-point game with 12 minutes left, it seemed both teams were giving a, "play not to lose," effort to the excitement of everyone watching. Brian Oliver's eighth 3-pointer of the tournament pushed the Pirates lead to 5 points with 10 minutes remaining, but an abundance of missed layups, free throws and turnovers swayed the momentum back in the closing minutes.
After a Jarell Eddie field goal gave the Hokies a 4-point lead with 1:45 remaining, it looked like Seton Hall was about to let another one slip away, albeit, in far less dramatic fashion. To the agita of every Pirate fan watching, this game would also be decided in the closing seconds. However, unlike last night, Pirate fans were able to digest their supper as their team executed perfectly, led by the captain, Fuquan Edwin.
After CJ Barksdale missed the front end (:38) of a 1-and-1 with Virginia Tech leading by two, the Pirates rebounded and Tom Maayan pushed the ball up the court. After briefly looking to his head coach to check on a possible timeout call, Kevin Willard emphatically waved on the point guard to run a play. Without hesitation Maayan dribble-drove, pulled in two defenders before he found Edwin wide open at the perimeter who responded by drilling the shot, giving Seton Hall a lead they would hang on to. The Pirates had more than one option to fold in the final two minutes and given what transpired last night, I'm sure there were quite a few people that expected them to. One person who didn't expect such an outcome was Kevin Willard who believed in Maayan to run the play, and in turn, Maayan believed in his captain, who brought home a win from Brooklyn.
There will be much more to come tomorrow, as we settle in for a much needed bye week of Seton Hall basketball.